September 2013

September 30 – Happy Birthday Johnny Allen

Born in Lenoir, NC in 1904, this hot-tempered right-hander had a knack for long winning streaks until he injured his arm in 1938 and never fully recovered. As a young man, Allen worked as a bellhop. When a guest in his hotel complained he couldn’t get any heat in is room,  Allen was sent to check out the complaint. The occupant of the room turned out to be the great Yankee scout Paul Krichell. Allen told the cold talent evaluator he was a pitcher and after he got the heating problem solved, a grateful Krichell arranged a Yankee tryout for him.

He pitched some excellent baseball for New York in the early thirties. As a 27 year old rookie, he went 17-4 for the 1932 Yankees. After winning 50 games during his four seasons in Pinstripes and fighting with the Yankee front-office about money, Allen was traded to Cleveland, where he promptly won 20 games in 1936 and went 15-1 the year after. At one point over three seasons, Johnny won 27 of 29 decisions with the Indians. It was a good thing too, because he was a sore loser, known to go after both umpires and teammates when he came up on the short end of a close or disputed decision.

After Allen hurt his arm, he was traded to the Browns and then spent some time with Brooklyn, winning 8 of 9 decisions as a Dodger. He ended his career with the Giants in 1944. This made him one of a very few pitchers who pitched for the Big Apple’s three original Major League franchises. He compiled a 142-75 record, lifetime. He was just 54 years of age when he suffered a heart attack and died.

Allen shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1932 NYY 17 4 .810 3.70 33 21 6 13 3 4 192.0 162 86 79 10 76 109 1.240
1933 NYY 15 7 .682 4.39 25 24 1 10 1 1 184.2 171 96 90 9 87 119 1.397
1934 NYY 5 2 .714 2.89 13 10 2 4 0 0 71.2 62 30 23 3 32 54 1.312
1935 NYY 13 6 .684 3.61 23 23 0 12 2 0 167.0 149 76 67 11 58 113 1.240
13 Yrs 142 75 .654 3.75 352 241 68 109 17 18 1950.1 1849 924 813 103 738 1070 1.326
CLE (5 yrs) 67 34 .663 3.65 150 121 25 60 9 6 929.2 905 427 377 36 342 505 1.341
NYY (4 yrs) 50 19 .725 3.79 94 78 9 39 6 5 615.1 544 288 259 33 253 395 1.295
BRO (3 yrs) 18 7 .720 3.21 55 20 15 6 1 4 213.1 186 92 76 20 76 86 1.228
NYG (2 yrs) 5 10 .333 3.74 33 13 13 2 1 2 125.0 125 64 52 10 38 57 1.304
SLB (1 yr) 2 5 .286 6.58 20 9 6 2 0 1 67.0 89 53 49 4 29 27 1.761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/30/2013.

September 29 – Happy Birthday Dave Silvestri

sylvestriIt was so nice having the Yankees double A farm team a half hour’s drive away from my back door twenty years ago. We’d put our four kids in the minivan and take them to Heritage Park, which was what they called the home field of the Eastern League’s Albany- Colonie Yankees back then and for less than twenty bucks, my family of six would spend an evening watching players we hoped would some day be on the roster of the big league Yankees. And many were, including the core four of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada, the Williams boys, Bernie and Gerald, Roberto Kelly, Jim Leyritz, Andy Stankiewicz, Pat Kelly, Sterling Hitchcock and a host of others who eventually got to play in the Bronx.

One of the Albany-Colonie players who I thought might be a future Yankee star was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Back in 1991, Dave Silvestri was the A-C Yankees starting shortstop and leading home run hitter. He belted 19 round-trippers that year and drove in 83 runs. I was hopeful that Silvestri would turn into a pinstriped version of Cal Ripken, a starting shortstop with lots of pop in his bat. He wasn’t perfect. His defense needed work and he struck out a lot but those were common maladies in younger players. He was certainly the organization’s top prospect at short and he continued to pound the ball at the triple A level.  The parent club was terrible back then and had no good shortstops on the roster. Remember Alvaro Espinosa?

But instead of getting a decent shot to play at the top level, the Yanks treated Silvestri like a yo-yo, sending him up and down repeatedly between their big league and Columbus rosters. He played seven games for New York in 1992, seven more in ’93, a dozen in ’94 and his Yankee career high of seventeen in 1995. Meanwhile, Jeter passed him on the organization’s depth chart for shortstops and the Yankees used up all their options on the guy. For a while, it looked as if he would be groomed to play third base, but in the end, the Yankees traded the then 27-year-old native of St. Louis to the Expos for a minor leaguer named Tyrone Horne. Silvestri told a New York Times reporter he couldn’t wait to leave the Yankees so he could play for an organization that would  finally give him a shot at a regular big league job.

The Expos gave Silvestri that shot in 1996, when he appeared in a career-high 86 games for Montreal. But he hit just .204 during that season and he was released at the end of that year. He continued playing, mostly in the minors for three more years.

Silvestri shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former starting pitcher and this 1967 Cy Young Award winner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 7 13 13 3 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 3 .308 .308 .615 .923
1993 NYY 7 26 21 4 6 1 0 1 4 0 5 3 .286 .423 .476 .899
1994 NYY 12 23 18 3 2 0 1 1 2 0 4 9 .111 .261 .389 .650
1995 NYY 17 27 21 4 2 0 0 1 4 0 4 9 .095 .259 .238 .497
8 Yrs 181 401 336 42 68 12 3 6 36 4 56 96 .202 .315 .310 .624
NYY (4 yrs) 43 89 73 14 14 1 3 3 11 0 13 24 .192 .315 .411 .726
MON (2 yrs) 125 283 234 28 52 10 0 3 24 4 43 68 .222 .341 .303 .644
TBD (1 yr) 8 14 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .071 .071 .071 .143
TEX (1 yr) 2 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
ANA (1 yr) 3 11 11 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .091 .091 .182 .273
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/29/2013.

September 28 – Happy Birthday Pete Filson

filsonYankee fans heard a lot about Pete Filson in the early eighties. He was a left-handed starting pitcher who had been selected by New York in the ninth round of the 1979 amateur draft. The Yankees assigned him to their Class C Appalachian League team in Paintsville, Kentucky and in 13 starts during the 1979 season he went 9-0 with three shutouts and a 1.68 ERA. The native of Darby, Pennsylvania then proved that first year was no fluke when he followed it up with a 13-9 record in A ball in 1980 and a stellar 17-3 mark the following season.

The question wasn’t would Filson become a winner for New York at the big league level, it was just a matter of when he’d get the chance. But this was the early eighties and the ego-maniacal George Steinbrenner was pretty much dictating the personnel moves made by the Yankee organization. The Boss didn’t get along with Rick Cerone, New York’s staring catcher at the time so he directed the front office to replace him. The Twins’ first string receiver was available but he wouldn’t come cheap. The Yanks had to give Minnesota Filson in the deal.

Filson made his big league debut with the Twins during the 1982 season and spent the next three years pitching out of the Minnesota bullpen. In 1986, he was traded to the White Sox and a year later, he returned to the Bronx as part of the same deal that brought Randy Velarde to the Yankees.

Filson finally got to make his Yankee debut on August 29, 1987 in a relief appearance against the Mariners. He got rocked. He also got lit up in his second appearance against Boston a week later but then settled down and pitched well in his next three. That streak got him his first ever start in pinstripes and he made it a good one, pitching seven scoreless innings against Baltimore and earning his first and only Yankee victory. He pitched well in his next start as well but did not factor in the decision.

Filson turned 29-years-old that year and the Yanks decided to release him at the end of their 1988 spring training camp. He got one more shot at the big leagues in 1990. Filson ended up having a brilliant minor league career, putting together a 95-34 record during his decade pitching on farm teams with a 2.98 ERA. I think the Yanks screwed up his career when they traded him for Wynegar and he ended up stuck in the Twins’ bullpen during his prime. Southpaws did well in the old Yankee Stadium and God knows the Yanks could have used another good lefty starter during those seasons in the early 1980’s.

He shares his September 29th birthday with this former Yankee center fielder,  this former Yankee relief pitcher and this long-ago New York first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1987 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.27 7 2 3 0 0 0 22.0 26 10 8 2 9 10 1.591
7 Yrs 15 18 .455 4.18 148 34 43 1 0 4 391.2 398 198 182 51 150 187 1.399
MIN (5 yrs) 14 13 .519 3.98 130 24 38 1 0 4 323.0 316 148 143 39 123 164 1.359
KCR (1 yr) 0 4 .000 5.91 8 7 0 0 0 0 35.0 42 31 23 6 13 9 1.571
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.27 7 2 3 0 0 0 22.0 26 10 8 2 9 10 1.591
CHW (1 yr) 0 1 .000 6.17 3 1 2 0 0 0 11.2 14 9 8 4 5 4 1.629
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/28/2013.

Grading the 2013 Yankees

newyorker.cover2013 – Mo made it a season to remember but if it were not for “number 42″ it would be one I’d love to forget. Here’s how I grade this year’s New York Yankees:

1B Overbay – B: An emergency signing after Teixeira’s WBC wrist injury, I did not expect much from Overbay offensively so the fact that he produced all those big hits was indeed a pleasant surprise. Still, I think Cashman could have done better than this guy.

2B Cano – A: Just the fact that he was one of the few regulars to stay healthy for the full season made him this year’s Yankee MVP. His offense went up a notch as soon Granderson and A-Rod got back and Soriano was acquired to give him some protection. Definitely the best player on a bad Yankee team and still the best second baseman in baseball, but if the reports are true that he wants $300 million for ten years to remain in NY I would not make the deal.

SS Nunez – C: His offense was horrible at the beginning of the year and then after getting hurt, his bat picked up but his defense went down the tubes. He may have finally convinced Yankee brass he’s not the best choice for Jeter’s successor.

3B Youklis-to-A-Rod – F: Horrible move by Cashman to let Chavez walk and then sign Youklis, bad back and all.

C Stewart & Romine – D -: Another horrible decision by Yankee front office to let Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh and try to save a few dollars at one of the most important positions in all of sports. Though I respect and like the guy a lot, Stewart would have trouble hitting .250 in a Little League. Only bright spot was Romine’s growing confidence at the plate as season went on.

OF Wells – C -: Another poor move by Cashman. When deal was announced and Yankee Media Dept stressed how much of Wells’ salary the Angels would be paying for the next two seasons, I knew what it was all about. Another example of Yanks trying to be clever with their bucks instead of doing what they needed to do to fill holes in their lineup. Wells started out strong but quickly fell back to form.

OF Gardner- B: Second most productive player in this year’s lineup but certainly not a guy who can carry the offense for long stretches and the fact that he’s ending this year on the DL once again is an indication he may be too injury prone to depend on long term.

OF Suzuki – C+ – I didn’t want Yanks to sign this guy for two years but it sounded like they had to, to get him back. Whatever, the reason, he is nothing but a good fourth outfielder at this stage of his career and Yanks already have too many of those.

DH Hafner – D – Again an example of Cashman trying to prove how clever he is instead of truly filling holes in his lineup. Yanks could have re-signed Ibanez or grabbed Soriano from the Cubs much earlier.

Soriano – A-, Granderson- C, A-Rod-C, Reynolds-C+, Nix-B

Starting Pitching – C+: Sabathia had worst year of his career; Kuroda, ended up being the no-better-than .500 winning percentage guy he’s been all along; Hughes was unbearable;  Nova and Pettitte ended up being the two best starters down the stretch.

Bullpen – B+: Mo wasn’t perfect but he was better than good. Robertson was too. Logan did well but should not pitch against righties. Claireborn showed promise, Kelley faded after a strong start and Joba may be ruined forever.

Manager – B: Joe Girardi – I was going to give him an A- but his team folded up on him down the stretch. He does deserve a new contract from the Steinbrenner’s though.

What really bothers me is the fact that no Yankee prospects emerged during a season when doing so was absolutely necessary. Not a single young pitcher or position player in the entire organization took advantage of the bountiful opportunities to step up and fill holes at the big league level.

GM – Brian Cashman – D- – The future is here and it sure don’t look pretty and this is the guy most responsible. The deals he didn’t want to make for the two Soriano’s ended up being two of the better deals the Yankees made since they won it all in 2009.

My final observation: Injuries kept Yanks out of postseason this year. Despite a slew of bad front-office moves, if the Yanks had any combination of Jeter, Granderson and Teixeira in their lineup for a full season they would probably have at least sneaked into postseason with a wild card spot. They should have re-signed Russell Martin and Erik Chavez. CC Sabathia’s drop off was a devastating blow to this team’s starting pitching as was Phil Hughes year-long ineptness and Hiroki Kuroda’s late season collapse. Its now too late to trade Hughes or Joba and Yanks won’t end up getting a draft choice for either.

As horrible as this season was for the Yankees, Yankee fans like myself will always remember it as being Mariano Rivera’s final year in pinstripes. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch this guy get the last three outs of so many Yankee victories for all these years. He was the best closer in baseball during his playing days, the very best there ever was and I honestly feel no one will ever come along who will do that very difficult job any better than this guy has done it for my favorite baseball team. So long Mo! I admired the way you performed on the field and the way you lived your life off of it.

September 27 – Happy Birthday Tal Smith

tal.smithTal Smith applied for his first job in baseball in 1960, when he was 27-years-old. He interviewed for an open position in the front office of the Cincinnati Reds with Gabe Paul, who happened to be the team’s GM at the time. Paul did not hire him. He told Smith the reason was he did not know shorthand, but three months later the eager exec-wannabe returned having mastered the skill and an impressed Paul gave him a job. Thus began a long association and friendship between the two men.

Two years later, Paul was hired as GM of the newly formed Houston Colt 45s and again hired Smith to assist him. Though Paul remained in Texas for just a few short months before accepting the GM job in Cleveland, Smith stayed in Houston for over a decade, serving in a variety of front office positions and gaining a level of knowledge and experience that would make him one of the more respected executives in the game.

Before George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees, he had been very close to purchasing the Indians and during the negotiation process, he had developed a fondness for Gabe Paul. When his offer for the Tribe was refused Steinbrenner called Paul and told him to keep his ears open for news of other big league owners that might want to sell. A few weeks later, Paul called “the Boss” and told him CBS wanted to dump the Yankees.

Though he had been promised the Presidency of the Yankees by Steinbrenner once the deal had been consummated, Paul did not completely trust the new owner. He therefore attempted to staff the Yankee front office with people he could trust and one of the first guys he brought to the Bronx as his de-facto GM in 1973 was Smith. The two men spent the next couple of years engineering a series of trades that brought the Yankees back to postseason play.

I had always thought that the reason Smith left New York to accept the GM’s position with Houston in August of 1975 was that he could not get along with the unpredictable Steinbrenner. As we learned later, Gabe Paul hated working for “the Boss” so I assumed his close friend Smith did as well. But years later, when Steinbrenner passed away, some of the most glowing tributes of him came from none other than Tal Smith. Still working in the Houston front office at the time, he spoke of the Yankee owner’s persistent and unpublicized generosity with all sorts of individuals and causes. The truth probably was that Smith loved the City of Houston, loved the Astros and didn’t at all mind removing himself from a job that had him answering to two egomaniacs in Steinbrenner and Paul.

He would remain associated with the Astros on and off for the next 35 years. He also became a sports industry entrepreneur. In 1981, he formed the Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which specialized in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases. The company has done work for 26 different big league teams.

The only other member of the Yankee family born on this date is this one-time reliever.